UNITED NATIONS – The Palestinian Authority on Monday urged the U.N. Security Council to quickly adopt a resolution calling for an immediate end to Israeli attacks in Gaza and a permanent cease-fire, including international border monitors and an international force to protect civilians.
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas is to arrive in New York on Tuesday morning and hopes the council will adopt a revamped Arab-backed resolution in the afternoon, Palestinian Foreign Minister Riad Malki told reporters.
He said between seven and nine Arab foreign ministers are also flying to New York, along with Arab League Secretary-General Amr Moussa, to show Arab unity backing a quick end and permanent solution to the conflict between Israel and Hamas, which controls the Gaza Strip.
Malki said the proposed new resolution would end "the Israeli aggression" in Gaza, call for an immediate and permanent cease-fire, lift the Israeli "siege," open all border crossings and allow delivery of humanitarian aid. It would also deploy international observers at the crossings and authorize an international force to protect civilians.
Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni says the observers should be able to close tunnels used to smuggle weapons to Hamas from Egypt. Malki said observers should monitor how the crossings are being managed, and that the tunnels should be shut down, though he did not say who should be responsible.
Late Saturday, the United States blocked approval of a Security Council statement calling for an immediate cease-fire and expressing serious concern at the escalation of violence after Israeli tanks and artillery began a ground assault on Gaza, council diplomats said.
U.S. deputy ambassador Alejandro Wolff said the U.S. saw no need for a new statement because it saw no prospect of Hamas abiding by the council's earlier call for an immediate end to rocket and mortar attacks that have traumatized southern Israel.
The Palestinian Authority, which is seeking the Security Council resolution, has no political power in Gaza and is a rival to Hamas, which is not represented in the U.N. discussions, at least not directly.
Asked the purpose of a new resolution if Gaza remains under Hamas' control, Malki said the Palestinian Authority has heard from Hamas that it was rocketing Israel to get the Israelis to lift their siege of Gaza and reopen the Rafah border crossing to Egypt.
If a new Security Council resolution succeeds in reopening all border crossings into Gaza, lifting the Israeli siege, allowing in humanitarian aid and deploying international monitors, he said, "I think we are doing exactly what Hamas tried to do through rockets and did not achieve it."
"What we are trying to get from this resolution is more than what Hamas was really asking," Malki said.
He said Palestinian reconciliation "is an important issue," which the Palestinian Authority has been trying to achieve under Egyptian auspices and wants mentioned in the new resolution. He added that "the Egyptians are contemplating reinviting all factions again to Cairo" but no date has been set.
While the Security Council took no action Saturday night, an Arab draft resolution circulated by Libya on Wednesday night that would condemn Israel and halt its military attacks on Gaza remains on the table. The U.S. called it "unacceptable" and "unbalanced" because it doesn't call for an end to the Hamas rocketing of Israel.
Malki said the revised draft resolution that the Palestinians are hoping to be adopted on Tuesday was being discussed with the current U.S. administration led by outgoing President George W. Bush "at the highest level" in order to pass it.
"We are here with an optimism that there will be no U.S. objection at all," he said.
Asked whether the transition of power to Barack Obama was complicating efforts to resolve the conflict, Malki expressed disappointment that the president-elect has refused to comment on the Israeli offensive in Gaza, even though he made a statement on the recent attacks in Mumbai, India.
"We expected him really to be open and responsive to the situation in Gaza," Malki said. "And still ... we expect him to make a strong statement regarding this as soon as possible."
Malki met with Arab ministers and ambassadors behind closed doors later Monday, and the group was scheduled to meet Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon in mid-afternoon. Malki said the Arabs would also be meeting with ambassadors from all 15 Security Council nations.
In a statement Sunday, the U.N. chief urged the divided council to work toward a speedy end to the escalating crisis in Gaza. He said he "will be working actively with members of the council and other key players, in particular Arab leaders ... to facilitate the emergence of a consensus."
Ban said he remains "extremely concerned about the deteriorating humanitarian situation" in Gaza.
Disputing Israeli claims that there is no humanitarian crisis in Gaza despite its 10-day air and ground offensive, U.N. humanitarian chief John Holmes called the violence "a worsening and an increasingly alarming crisis."
He told reporters Monday that U.N. officials believe as many as 25 percent of the 500 people killed in the fighting are civilians, and that Gaza's health system is "increasingly precarious" due to the more than 2,500 injured. Holmes added that "clearly cluster munitions are being used" which are damaging to the civilian population.